Must every weekend day have planned activities?: A deliberately controversial post

Laura Vandekam has been pushing planning things on weekends.  Not doing chores, of course, but something Fun!  Something you can look forward to All Week!  Don’t waste a single weekend day!

I’m as type-A a planning person as almost anybody (I suspect #2 isn’t), but I get a little angry at the thought of someone taking away my occasional (more frequent now) completely unplanned weekend day (and #2 even more so) because somehow that’s supposed to make me happier.  It’s mine!  You can’t have it!  You can’t make me get dressed!

Planning requires mental load.  It requires looking at the clock.  It requires not being able to be completely relaxed.  It means if something comes up you have to make a choice and lose an option instead of just going with the flow.  It may even require getting out of bed at a certain time (and certainly requires getting out of bed at some point) and putting on day clothes.

Oh, but it could be something as simple as going for a jog by yourself (whose idea of fun is THAT?) or having a friend drop by to socialize or going to church.  All of these options require  *effort*.  All require putting on clothes.  What could be better than lazing around the house in one’s pajamas?  Not having to put on pants unless and until one feels like it?

But if you were a sports fan (we’re not), you wouldn’t resent having to go  to your favorite sports team’s game if you had tickets?  Well, actually, I am a big fan of many kinds of arts (definitely not sports… especially not ones that involve sitting outside to watch), but I do resent having to remember to go, having to make sure I’m dressed appropriately, having to deal with driving and parking, and having to stay up past my bedtime.  Plus, since we live in a small town, all such events tend to be on weekday nights anyway.  If I want to enjoy a weekend arts event, that requires driving into the city, something that is a major production so we only do it about once a month.  And we generally need to have the next day off to recover… doing nothing… so as to hit Monday ready to work again.

In fact, there aren’t many things in this small town that I want to do more than laze about at home with my family.  Maybe even *gasp* doing chores.  Because doing chores on the weekend together is actually kind of fun, even though it couldn’t possibly be, and even though chores should be crammed into the weekdays instead or hired out (nobody touches my underpants who isn’t related to me!).  We’re even a bit tired of things to do in the nearest real city (there’s only so many times one can see each museum and zoo and park) and have been considering exploring farther away large cities.

Now, when we were living in a city, it was much easier to have low-key planned activities every day without having to worry about stress or the clock.  We could walk to the Saturday farmer’s market, we could walk to a sushi place and a frozen yogurt place and to the library (which was even open on Sunday!).  The weather also tended to stay in the 2-digit range which made it easier to take advantage of such things.  And there were lots of untried restaurants and free activities a short drive away on the weekends (when traffic wasn’t as bad).  The bar to doing things was lower and they didn’t have to be truly planned with a set time.  Even so, the occasional weekend day off always ended with my partner saying, “I had a good day today.”  And I would reply, “Me too.”

Occasionally when I get cabin fever we’ll take an unplanned day and just get in the car and drive!  Those lead to fun times too, even if completely spur of the moment.  Sadly this part of the country has fewer bakeries and ice cream shops per capita than other parts of the country in which we have lived.  But we still find the occasional random tea shop or pie place.

Now, we’re not saying you should never do anything on the weekend.  We do something most weekends.  But we also cherish our days off.  The ones where we don’t get up until late (totally wasting the morning!) and the answer to, “Did we have anything planned today?” (or if partner is asking, “Do we have anywhere we need to be at?”) is “No.”  If you’re not happy with doing nothing, by all means, start planning stuff.  But if the thought of someone making you do something more on weekends makes you feel a bit possessive, then by golly, don’t force yourself to plan more activities.  Listen to your boredom and listen to your stress, and you should be ok.

There’s a reason many religions celebrate a Sabbath.

Vive la no pants!

Do you think every day of your life should be planned so that you get things done and always have something to look forward to?

43 Responses to “Must every weekend day have planned activities?: A deliberately controversial post”

  1. eemusings Says:

    I personally do not plan my weekends and guard my non-word time very jealously (PR events and other events are rampant but unless there is a serious draw – I turn down all invitations garnered through work). Gotta admit we don’t really do much on weekends. Veg and read a lot. Grocery shop and clean. Auckland is so expensive (and there are few free/cheap activities, apart from some outdoors stuff, but it’s winter and we’ve had the worst year weatherwise, including a total nonstarter of a summer).

    Do I feel bad about having such unexciting weekends? I used to; now I refuse to. It’s what I like to do (though I’ll admit the other weekend T and I decided we would do *something* fun together, but then he decided he couldn’t be bothered, leading to a very grumpy me because if there’s one thing I hate, it’s people not following through).

  2. bogart Says:

    I think I’m a fan of unplanned, though our weekends typically do have a plan and it’s this: DH plays golf one of the two days (usually his choice which) and I ride horses the other. Also I squeeze in a visit to my dad in the nursing home.

    However, this lazing around the house you mention: conceptually good, practically impossible. I was promised starting kindergarten would tire out my kid and let me just say I feel let down.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yeah, that’s why we started K a year early. Second grade seems to be doing the trick. But DC1 still needs thinking and exercise so on weekend mornings we do homework books and we try to have some kind of exercise during the day.

      • bogart Says:

        “…on weekend mornings we do homework books…”

        Oof. Oof.

        The exercise part, I am good with.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        If we don’t he is unbearable. Have to get some mental stimulation in. (Besides, Singapore math is way more fun than the Saxon they use at school and he really likes the brainquest workbooks. Definitely no kumon or anything boring and repetitive.)

      • bogart Says:

        Yes, I understand, at least in broad outline. There’s plenty I now do as a parent because it’s (much) better than the nearest available (or any) other option as such (as a parent, to my particular kid, in this particular moment), even though, absent the kid, I might choose to lie around in my PJs nibbling bon bons.

  3. Perpetua Says:

    I’m a big fan of being lazy. I’d like nothing better than spending the whole morning lying in bed doing nothing, maybe watching some tv. But really, I have little kids, and they are too young to laze around (unless they watched tv for 3 hrs straight, which is not happening), and hyper structuring the weekend with activities is the only thing that keeps me from going out of my mind. (When they are in the house too long, they get bored and start getting into trouble and acting out.)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Hm, that’s also Vanderkam’s situation. Maybe her dictum should be, “if you have 3 kids under 6 you must plan every weekend.” But I bet there are exceptions there too.

      • Perpetua Says:

        I’m sure there are exceptions. Not all kids are as high energy as mine. I have friends with very mellow kids who seem content to tool around the house for hours at a time, playing with their toys. Mine can do that a bit, but they need action (and we have no back yard to speak of). We not that rigid about their activity level in the house – they can jump on and off the toddler bed for example, but they still need to get out of the house.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Quite a few houses in our town have full playgrounds set up in their backyards. (We use the one in walking distance from the HOA.)

  4. Cloud Says:

    We plan one fun activity together every weekend, even if it is as low key as walking down to our neighborhood park. Otherwise, months go by and we find we haven’t done the things we really love doing with the kids- go to the beach, go to the science museum, go to the aquarium, go to the zoo… Otherwise, our weekends just disappear into our neverending to do list. I don’t hate the chores we do on the weekend, but I’d be disappointed if I got back to work on Monday and that was all we had done. And I don’t actually mind that we have a neverending to do list around the house, but I don’t want it taking over my weekends. So we sit down and loosely plan out our weekend- chores and fun- over beers on Friday night. If something else more fun comes up, then we just change plans.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Both weekend days? Generally we need Sunday to recover from Saturday when we have a true adventure.

      We plan many of our weekends, but not all of them. It is nice to have an occasional rest. (Especially since going to museums and zoos involves a 2 hour drive there and 2 hrs back. And sometimes all we do in the city is hit Whole Foods, Penzey’s and an ice cream place.)

      • Cloud Says:

        Yes, both days. My husband has a truly impressive capacity for doing chores. And identifying chores that could be done. It is a blessing and a curse.

        Note that sometimes the extent of our plans is “walk down to the local park on Sunday afternoon.” But I’ve found that if we don’t explicitly put that in the plan, my husband just does chores all weekend, either dragging me in with him or leaving me to entertain the kids on my own.

        Also, we have the beach, Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, all the museums in Balboa Park, the Birch Aquarium, and probably some other things I’m forgetting about within ~30 mins by car. So an outing to any of those is not really a big deal. We typically spend a morning on it, because the almost 3 year old still naps from roughly 1-3.

        When we go further afield (like Legoland or the Zoo’s Safari Park, both of which are about an hour away), we tend to make a day of it, and those sorts of outings are less frequent.

        But, of course, our housing costs are really high. We made that trade off, though, so we might as well enjoy the upsides of it!

    • First Gen American Says:

      My weekend life is exactly like clouds. If we don’t plan something fun, then it’s chores all weekend. I would like more naps though.

  5. mom2boy Says:

    We are both planners by nature but unless it’s a vacation we just have a rough idea of what we’d like the weekend to look like and go from there. Lazing around is harder with little kids. I end up being a playmate in pajamas and that really isn’t fun for me. Also, everyone in the house is a morning person so no one really wants to sleep much later than we normally do. Maybe 30 minutes? I love Saturday morning youth sports. You don’t really have to think about it or plan for it. Just get up and go and I think it’s entertaining to watch plus you get to talk to grown ups while the kids play. Sundays we tend to guard for family around the house (including chores)/neighborhood stuff. We like having a community with a playground and a pool and great walking/biking areas and we take advantage of all of that on the weekends. We are really looking forward to being able to enjoy the weather and similar activities in our new state. I go back to work full-time in a few weeks though so I may have a whole new take on weekend prioritization in a few months.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I remember when DC1 was 3 we sought out a lot more playdates and other outings. Of course, our life circumstances were also different (more free time) when DC was 3.

      I dunno, we seem to be able to figure out how much planning to put into our weekends that’s appropriate for our life stage without a hard and fast rule that you must do X or Y all the time. We plan when we want to and we take a break when we don’t.

      Maybe the hard and fast rules are good for thinking, “Am I happy with what I’m doing now, if not then maybe I can change something” but I also know that some folks think, “I thought I was happy but I’m not following that rule and someone else says I should be so now I feel guilty and maybe I’ll follow that rule and just not understand why it makes me less happy than I was before… until someone else tells me to follow the opposite rule and it may not work out either.”

      • mom2boy Says:

        And you are also happy cleaning when you want and not cleaning when you don’t. ;)
        I don’t stress about weekend planning or lack there of at all so I’m with you on this point. One more “should do” in the parenting column isn’t anything I’m looking to acquire.

        re: children’s bday parties
        There is always the option to decline the invitation. Unless it is a best friend (and I have a son that seems not to gather hundreds of best friends, just one or two at a time), we don’t change plans to go if there’s something already going on. I don’t really try to avoid them like the plague, though. I don’t think it’s a terrible way to spend two hours on a Saturday but then again I like watching pee wee soccer, so ymmv.

      • Cloud Says:

        Hey, @mom2boy- did I see a note a couple of posts back that you’re moving to California? Send me an email (my address is on my blog). If you’re coming to SoCal, we should meet up! If you are going to the bay area, I might have a useful lawyer contact for you.

  6. rented life Says:

    I am a planner, and with husband’s schedule now, it’s even more neccesary. We don’t get to do fun weekend stuff because there’s no promise he’ll have off even ONE weekend day and he never has both off without a special request. In fact for the next couple weeks he’ll have Sunday and one weekday off. Then he’ll have two weekdays off and no weekend days. So while there’s often fun things to do around here on weekends, we can’t do them.So we have to carefully plan around his days off for when we can do fun things and what those things might be.

    That said, I resent anyone telling me what to do on my days off. We both operate much better if we have at least one do nothing day. If the mood takes you and you want to do something–chores or fun–then by all means have at it. But no pressure. If we go too long without a day where we don’t leave the house we both get rather unpleasant. (The reservse is also true–too long without doing something fun with different scenery and we’re both antsy.)

    Friends of ours have plans every day. When we visit them (they also have two kids), it feels a little overwhelming. Swimming, amusement parks, shopping, get togethers with people, something is always going on, no matter time of year. My parents were the complete opposite. You didn’t do anything, especially on Sunday (except the grocery store). I prefer a balance between the two.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      My in-laws always have tons of plans on vacation and they’re exhausting (we always need a vacation from the vacation). My parents never have any plans and just go with the flow (this works better with my mom who quietly reads novels than my dad who gets cabin fever). They’re different experiences!

      • rented life Says:

        Mom and dad vacation with us we make them do the go with the flow, but I have to do some planning or else I’ll hear every few seconds “what are we doing next?” We do a nice meal, we take in what we want and we’re flexible. We like to just go and see what happened. When they vacation with their friend they have everything planned and they don’t do nice meals or anything…My in laws vacation better if MIL can just go to FL because that’s really the only thing she wants to do!

  7. Linda Says:

    I get exhausted if I have every weekend day planned out. Weekdays are stressful enough; having some time to just let my mind drift is a necessity. Unfortunately my mind usually drifts to something that needs doing around the house and I start getting stressed because I don’t want to do things, I just want to rest.

  8. oilandgarlic Says:

    I definitely think that having young kids might lead people to plan more activities, just to tire the little rascals out a bit! The thing I dread most is kid birthday parties — any advice on avoiding those once kids reach school age? Those alone seem to require planning your day around them.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      One benefit of going to a private school– only 10 potential birthday parties instead of 30-35!

      But yeah, when we were on the preschool birthday party circuit there were some parents we saw a lot and some parents we never saw. Some folks went to most of them and some went to none and some picked and chose. (We tended to go– no soccer or anything to conflict and they did tend to tire DC1 out. Folks with older kids in addition to their preschooler we saw less.)

  9. chacha1 Says:

    I always have a To-Do list, but what I end up doing on the weekend is usually serendipitous. That is to say, most of the things on the List are either non-essential or non-time-sensitive. So I do whatever I feel like doing, and at the end of the weekend as long as I’ve accomplished something I’m good. Right now the DH and I are in heavy training for competition, so coaching is the one thing we firmly schedule.

    I’m not a representative specimen though since I’m a childless apartment dweller, which means my domestic To-Dos are pretty darn minimal.

  10. PQA Says:

    Make sure to have a plan A, B and C but never forget about option F… f*ck it all. :) That is my strategy for weekends.

  11. MutantSupermodel Says:

    I think it depends. Different people recharge their batteries in different ways.
    I struggle with this back and forth every weekend. Sometimes, vegging about the house does the trick. Sometimes, it doesn’t and makes things worse. I get depressed and stuff. I think what I’m finding is that whole b-word again. Balance, balance, balance.
    First of all, I need to give myself permission to enjoy my weekends. I’m working on that. I feel like the weekends are the only time I can actually get things done so I feel guilty dropping the laundry to go sail with my dad. But when I do just that, it is the most amazing feeling in the world. Sailing with my dad this weekend, just for a couple of hours mind you, totally relaxed me in a way I hadn’t felt in I don’t know how long. And he’d offered to take me a billion times before.
    I dunno, it’s a weird one. I hate planning things and automatically turn things down most of the time because of it. But when I FORCE myself I usually end up having a wonderful time and really being glad I did it.

  12. Debbie M Says:

    As a kid, I was bored a lot. Plans every weekend day would have been a dream come true!

    As an adult, I made a vow never to be bored again. At first, this required having something fun planned for every day after work (half my friends were still in college, so my day was much more boring than theirs otherwise), not just weekends.

    Nowadays I have only 4 weekly things planned (2 trips to the gym, one ballroom dance lesson, Sunday brunch out) and 1 monthly thing planned (craft night). Every time one of these falls through, I am cheering inside. (In fact, we’re playing hooky this session from dance class because it’s classes we possibly haven’t actually forgotten anything from since the last times we took them. Woot!) That’s just wrong.

    My current strategy is the same as chacha1’s (except my lack of dependents is in a house). We sometimes have a problem with missing fun things we want to do just because we’re not keeping track of the time.

  13. becca Says:

    For me, a “perfect day” is a little bit of structure, but a lot of free-form.
    For example these days on Saturday I usually walk over to the Farmer’s Market with my 3 year old sometime between 10-2, after watching some Melissa Harris-Perry (partner has soccer from 10-12 and usually goes into lab a bit before or after). It’s become a ritual, and doesn’t require getting up and getting to things at any particular time. Thus, I can feel good because it’s not “doing nothing”, yet it requires no planning energy. It requires pants, I suppose, and braving the weather, but I don’t find those nearly as onerous as getting up.
    Totally unplanned days are sometimes useful if things have been fast-paced, but it’s super-rare I enjoy them now. Before-kidlet, we had more super-lazy days with quality time for Partner thrown in, but alas! Kidlet does Not Approve.

  14. J Liedl Says:

    My husband works most weekends now and our elder daughter works at least one day a weekend most of the time. Whereas other families see weekends as time off, we don’t really. So this kind of advice doesn’t work well for us, especially as the weekend schedules for Eldest don’t come out until Thursday.

    I’m all for planning but planning something special every weekend sounds like too damned much work. Speaking of which. . . .

  15. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    I have every f*cken minute all week long planned up the goddamn motherf*cken gazzoo. I’ll be f*cken assed if I’m gonna plan every goddamn motherf*cken weekend, too.

  16. Laura Vanderkam (@lvanderkam) Says:

    Hmmm… A few thoughts. First, while many religious do have a Sabbath, they often require you to go to services on said Sabbath. Which means getting up and dressed and going somewhere. So this suggests that the concept of restorative rest means doing something different, not sitting around watching TV. Second, time will always be filled with something. Not choosing is still a choice. I know with 3 kids age 5 and under, there is no such thing as sitting around and doing nothing. What that translates into is acting as a referee and trying to tune out constant whining. Even if you put the TV on all day the kids will be at each others’ throats by noon. If not earlier. Hopefully with a larger gap between your children you won’t have as much of that.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      If resting after 6 days of work is good enough for God…

      There’s also a difference between specifically planning to do nothing and having no plans. I would argue that no plans (on occasion), can be more relaxing than forcing oneself to do nothing. It’s all about the mental load. Sometimes it is nice to just give that part of the brain a break. I occasionally do this at work (like today), just let each task come to me rather than doing my normal scheduled plan. I’m getting lots of little things done and making plans for the future, which was not something I set out to do this morning, but will make following a plan tomorrow easier.

  17. BigLittleWolf Says:

    Far too much is (over)planned and (over)scheduled in this society – not only for children, but for adults. I suspect we’d all be saner and healthier if we uncoupled ourselves more often from the “necessity” of so much activity, allowing for more serendipity… not to mention a little bit of rest.

    Naturally, with kids, it’s more of a struggle. (Especially if you’re the only parent.) Still, the unstructured time is so good for them. And maybe not a bad model for them to see us with a bit of unstructured time as well.

    • Laura Vanderkam (@lvanderkam) Says:

      I think this is a false dichotomy. Most children aren’t overscheduled — something like 40% aren’t in any activities at all. Many kids go home to empty houses and watch TV because it’s the safest thing to do. While some proportion of upper-middle-class children are overscheduled, a lot of kids could benefit from joining a sports team or being in a school play or something. Also, even if you have some things planned, that doesn’t mean every minute is planned. There are 60 hours between that first beer at 6 p.m. Friday and the alarm going off at 6 a.m. on Monday. If I plan 2 3-hour things in there, that’s 6 of 60 hours (36 waking ones). That still leaves a lot of unstructured time.

  18. Rebecca H. Says:

    The thought of all those plans makes me exhausted. I like doing things on the weekend, but in moderation only! The pressure to find something to do every weekend would be too much. I’m happy for quiet weekends at home, as long as they are balanced by other weekends where I’m doing something interesting.

  19. Jacq Says:

    I have to satisfy the introvert within first and foremost. That’s the awesome thing about winter and snow and getting a good excuse to stay in the house in front of the fireplace all weekend.
    Having said that, I do sometimes feel quite virtuous having made plans to be out and about (only one day at a time if I’m working) and sticking to them. Maybe once a month or so. No need for over-achieving. Neither of my kids are leaving the house types either so I don’t know what’s up with that. We seem to be happy spending time together without other people around.

  20. Revanche Says:

    What Comradde PhysioProffe said.

    If someone came into my life and forced such a thing on me, I’d have a criminal record or have long departed this world, my days are already so overbooked. I specifically planned all my weekends NOT to have plans as much as possible, exemptions allowed a month in advance for travel, work overflow (which used to happen all the dingaling time) and chores.

    I happen to enjoy chores, so I schedule those in as a stress-reliever since they have to be done but then I want to be left well enough alone. Now that I’m married? It’s taken a full year to start getting used to the idea that sometimes going out to do stuff is going to happen, like it or not, and I may as well be involved it some of it so I don’t hate it.

    Still avoid major family outings for days on end since the in-laws overschedule to a fare thee well and allow not a minute to be unbooked lest it expire of loneliness. As an overscheduled introvert, that’s the double whammy of no alone time and being on a death march. Some vacation! Tiny children are in the mix now but are only at the intense caretaking stage (special circumstances). I have no idea what it’ll be like when they’re at a point when they might actually need entertaining.

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